Working with Arnaud Saint-Paul and Smartsy

Introduction

For the last few years I’m doing consulting for various startups and web companies, mostly for server-side development using Java, Groovy, Grails, etc. Few months ago I’ve contacted Jose Comboni, from San Mateo, CA, who was looking for a consultant for French company called Smartpaper (founded by Arnaud Saint-Paul and Gerard Ayache). The company has been moving to US, with a new name “Smartsy” (or Smartsy Corp). We made a deal, signed an agreement, and started working.

Disclaimer: This article is my personal opinions. No guarantee is given that the information provided in this article is correct, complete, and up-to-date. All the trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

Structure

Smartsy – is a corp registered in California, US. Previously called as Smartpaper, and Smartsystem, and was working in France. Smartsy is a mobile app for iOS and Android + web application based on Grails.

Managed by:

Process

It was strange that nobody was really concerned about project, fast results, etc. It takes days to receive answer for urgent questions, and about a month to get all details. It’s common for enterprise, but unusual for startup which is trying to save each cent and get result as fast as possible.

More strange was that some parts of the project were lost. Just an outdated version in “zip” file, no git/svn, no history, nothing. I mean, previous developer just didn’t provide sources for his last work, so we had only compiled binary on test server, and an outdated snapshot of sources. It was my fault that I didn’t pay attention to this facts.

Result

After some time I’ve realized that they aren’t going to pay by contact, on my questions about payment they always had a different answer why they didn’t make a payment by the moment. There were:

  1. Can’t contact CFO (Eric Seulliet)
  2. CFO is on vacation
  3. Bank was closed at those days (for holidays)
  4. CEO is on vacation
  5. Answered with ‘please confirm that you’ve receiving payment’, meaning that they transferred the money. Good trick Jose, but I didn’t receive any payment, and you knew that Smartsy even didn’t send the money.
  6. And finally, they said that they don’t have money, at all. They’re looking for investor, and can’t pay until they will receive money from investor. Wow!

I fully understand what is startup, but there is different situation:

  • It’s not a classic startup, it’s a new business for a group of successful entrepreneurs (as they said), who has the money, more that enough money, but don’t want to spend own money, only investor’s money (as they said, too)
  • They made agreement, told that they have money for the job, and meaning that it’s not a startup, but a work for well-established company (Arnaud even told me that they were choosed as a partners to UK Olympic Games)
  • They were trying to make their problems became my problems. If they fail with investments – they can just say ‘sorry, we didn’t get the investments, and it’s your problem now
  • Too much lie, each time a new story, a new lie. Instead of telling truth from the beginning. Unprofessional people, who don’t care about making a real business
  • Trying to get the money

    I’ve asked them many times to make any proof, that they’re going to pay. I tried to find a solution, I was asking about splitting payment into few smaller parts, starting from $1000 for a first payment. Not a big money. Arnaud said that they don’t have even $1000. Isn’t it weird that such “successful entrepreneur” just can’t find $1000? I met Arnaud Saint-Paul, his shoes costs more. He mentioned also, that he had a meeting with customers at “TC Disrupt SF 2012 Conference”, as I know, this conference costs about $3000 per person. And also, he is accredited US investor. Oh, really?

    Both Eric Seulliet and Gerard Ayache just ignored this situation, I didn’t receive any response on my emails.

    For this moment the only way I see is to go to attorney. I guess they were sure that I can’t do it, because they hired a remote consultant, living somewhere far from US. But I came to US, Arnaud looked surpised, because he wasn’t ready to pay. And he is still not ready, or don’t want to, thinking that I’ll leave it as is. Btw, he mentioned that attorney is useless, because Smartsy Corp is a new company (in US), and just don’t have any money in a bank.

    Actually It’s a big problem for me. It takes so much time, so much energy, trip is really expensive, I already spent months to trying to get money. But I can’t leave it as is, Arnaud and Jose made too many problems for me. And I hope that by publishing this post, I’m going to help a lot of people who is planning to work with these people. So, if you’re iOS, Android os Grails developer, or business partner of Smartsy (or other company by Arnaud Saint-Paul) be prepared.

    Also, I’m wondering, what’s wrong with these guys? How they trying to make business in US if they have no respect for business ethics? And how many people got the same problem after working with this guys?

    UPDATE

    Before starting to work with a new client, I always google for the company name. Everything was fine at that moment. Jose Comboni was clear, Smartsy was a new name (name of CEO was hidden from me). Now I understand that it was because Arnaud has created a new company (with a new name) and used a new representative (Jose Comboni) for the company, so googling was useless. After reading comments, I see that it’s common situation, and, as everyone there said, they has never been paid attention to paying money, because they know that they can always close the company, and create a new one.

    UPDATE 2

    A lot of people has responded to this post, and, if everything is truth, this group of people made a lot of not-so-legal stuff. So, now I’m gathering all details and facts about company (all previous names, owners, etc), about partners that received or not received money, potential scam/fraud actions, etc. If you know something, please let me know. My email is igor@artamonov.ru

    UPDATE 3 / Nov 2012

    Put all new details into one page – http://igorartamonov.com/2012/11/smart-biz-of-arnaud-saint-paul-and-eric-seulliet/

    And yes, this guys still telling me that they don’t have money to pay.

    UPDATE 4 / 25 Jun 2013

    Arnaud Saint-Paul has hired a law firm, and now trying to intemidate me into removing this blog posts. And also has a new reason: “not paying because I wrote that he is not paying“. Brilliant!

    He owes this money for about a year, but he still avoid making the payment. Actually he agreed that he owes money, but say like “will pay sometime in the future“. What’s funny, Arnaud agreed to pay to attorney, but not to a software engineer.

    UPDATE 5 / 23 Jul 2013

    Finally, Smartsy Corp paid for the job I did for them. Year later after job was done, and dozens of emails and calls.

    Thanks to my blog, it’s only reason why they has followed agreement. So, if you’re going to work with this guys – be prepared.

  • Mcrieul

    Welcome to the club!  , we are many in your case with Smartsystem (original company of SMARTSY, managed by the same team with the same offer) ( they have changed of company because they put SMARTSYSTEM in debt not to pay their legal condamnations and not to be pursued by thier unsatisfied customer and … ex partners…..).

    I have worked 6 months in 2010 / 2011 with them to build the company and realised when i came with the first contract … that they wanted to spoil the customer and the subcontractors ( the ones supposed to deliver)  from day one. I stopped immediatly my cooperation with them… and alert the customer but it was too late…..the customer unfortunatly have paid the whole 100k€ ..and is still waiting the delivery, as of today!  Of course i did not recieve any commissions …. so you are not alone , and it seems their speciality is really to promise payment after work and never deliver the money…., as it is always small amount ( not for the customer…) they think they will be able to go on without consequences… I think this is really a poor approach without any chance of future!
    I can give you another 4 to 5 people in the same case of you and me!
    I wonder how people with such impressive reputation could go in this very special way of doing business… may be they have other ethical value than us?

    MC RIEUL

  • [stay anonymous]

    Lol, The same here…

  • http://twitter.com/iartamonov Igor Artamonov

    Thanks for response! It’ll be very helpful if you ask this people to post their experience there as a comment, and share link to this post.

  • Tokidev

    You too :-) ?
    We are co-founders of a French company, Tokidev SAS, and we too have had numerous issues with Smartsystem.

    They approached us asking whether or not we had any idea of innovative product around visual recognition and mobile applications. They talked about the idea of “augmenting paper”. One of us suggested the idea of visual recognition as a trigger for serving mobile content created through a CMS. The idea was to create a common partnership around the product to sell it inside a new, common company.

    In the end – when the product was ready – they tried to have us sign a document giving them the complete intellectual property over our work with nothing in exchange whatsoever. When we refused, they tried to sue us, which eventually resulted in them having to pay us damages after the court decision. To this day, we still haven’t received this money (despite having legally tried to engage seizures to obtain money from their bank and some of their customers).

    Later, we learned that they had hired another French company to develop an identical product, which they proceeded to rename to “Smartsy”. They apparently created a new company around this product. The company they hired for the development told us they had several bills that had never been paid by Smartsystem/Smartsy, to this day… and we too have heard of many others who have had problems with Smartsystem.

    Anyway, sorry to hear you’re now part of “the club”, as was said above ;-) hopefully the fact that you posted your experience this way – and the fact that we commented with our own – will avoid other people making the same mistake.

    Best regards,
    Alexandre Maisonobe
    Benjamin Renaut
    Gregory Galli

  • Thibaut

    Hi Igor,

    I had the same problems with Smartsy. I heard quite all the projects collaborators i knew complaining of unpayed bills. I didn’t heard that they paid anyone except in cases of legal procedures.

    Just go for a standard recoverment procedure, and maybe when they will understand that you are serious, they will pay you or at least be forced to by a lawer.

    I really don’t understand them way of making business. They pretend to be a huge organism, with a hudge network, yet they only are a few guys. They didn’t even try to manage correctly them projects. Is selling wind so profitable ? 

    Thibaut

  • ekito

    Hi, 
    the same for us,
    we are a company hired just after tokidev, and before you, without knowing the story…

    we have not been fully paid and have definitly stop working with them, several months ago,

    to be partially paid, it was very difficult, we need to stop several times the project to be partially paid …

    they still used our code whithout the right of using it (not fully paid)

    they do not understand standard recoverment procedure,
    we have allready made it,

    and they use all tricks they can, not to pay people,

    so here we’re going to do a more advanced procedure against them,

    we have hundreds of customers and i never seen that!

    ekito
    everyone involved who want to join us on an advanced procedure can contact us at contact(at)ekito.fr

  • Chan Tonthat

    Dear Igor,

    I was part of Smartsystem in 2011. I was operating as a business developer and project manager. I quit the company for business ethics reasons. I’d rather say for none existing business ethics on Eric Seuillet et Gérard Ayache side.

    I had to go through legal procedures to get paid (a ridiculously small amount).
    And what I read from you is no surprise at all.

    My advice to you would be not to let it go and press charges against them. 
    They crossed the line, so should you.

    If you need more intel, insights or experience sharing, my email address is chan.tonthat at gmail.com

    Chan

  • http://twitter.com/iartamonov Igor Artamonov

    MC RIEUL, could you please send me email at igor@artamonov.ru?

  • http://twitter.com/iartamonov Igor Artamonov

    Thibaut, could you please send me an email to igor@artamonov.ru?

  • Guest